Looking ahead to this weekend’s Six Nations action
Six Nations Preview – Round Two
I have already decided on my first takeaway from this season’s Six Nations – I know absolutely nothing.
Round 1 – Review
To review my score predictions for last week in summary, I went for England by 10. We all know how that result panned out. The Scots played like men possessed, dare I say that they were each offered a bottle of Scotland’s finest whiskey? The thistles grabbed their first win at Twickenham in 38 years and claimed their 41st Calcutta Cup. Owen Farrell’s men were poor in attack and were quite unimaginative in possession. England had a lot more to offer if they spread the ball wide, but they fell for Grigor Townsend’s trap and played narrow.
I predicted that France would beat the Italians – the only result that I managed to call correctly in Round 1. However, I expected the Azzurri to put up a fight. Instead, Italy went down without a whimper by a mammoth 4o points. Les Bleus will be excited at the prospect of ending their 11-year wait for the Six Nations title following their strong showing in Rome. I expected Italy to take the wooden spoon this year, and after their showing, I am confident of that outcome.
Lastly, Wales hosted Ireland at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff. I mentioned that Wales is my favourite side in the tournament as their style of rugby most resembles my beloved Springboks. Despite this, I thought that the Shamrocks would get the better of the Dragons in the clash of the weekend. Surprisingly, Wales outperformed my expectations and overturned the 3-point loss that I had predicted into a 5-point win. Ireland exposed themselves gravely when Peter O’Mahony became the first Irishman to receive his marching orders in the Six Nations. Certainly not an accolade that one would wish to claim.
Therefore, my score of 1 out of 3 is dismal – but I have full faith that this weekend will be different.
𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙞𝙩 𝙢𝙚𝙖𝙣𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙮𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙖𝙩 𝙛𝙪𝙡𝙡-𝙩𝙞𝙢𝙚. pic.twitter.com/Rv3di89a0a
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) February 6, 2021
Round 2 – England vs Italy
Now, the first matchup of the weekend gives me an opportunity to redeem myself. Eddie Jones and his roses are reeling following a chastening defeat at the hands of their fiercest rivals. Italy presents the perfect fixture to recover and get some points on the board. The Azzurri hosted France last week and were absolutely hammered. They had their opportunities but France were too potent on the counter-attack.
Conversely, England will be seeking improvement. They have recalled George Ford, Kyle Sinckler, and Courtney Lawes for this fixture – valuable assets to have at your disposal. Ford will wear the number 10 jersey with Owen Farrell shifting to inside centre.
— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) February 11, 2021
Their outside backs will be licking their lips in anticipation of getting on the scoresheet. Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, and Jonny May make for an impressive attacking trio. Although, this match will be won in the engine room. England will want to dominate set-pieces, in an attempt to grind the Italians into submission. This will provide the foundation for their talented backs to flourish. Key to England’s chances will be Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes & Tom Curry.
Sam Underhill remains absent but Jones’ pack will be more than sufficient with their current selection. I will be impressed if the Italians finish the game within 25 points of their hosts.
Prediction: England by 33.
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) February 11, 2021
Round 2 – Scotland vs Wales
A tie that takes on a completely different complexion following last week’s results.
Scotland goes into their first home game of the season off the back of arguably their best result in years. Beating England at home is a major achievement. Especially when one considers that Scotland had not managed it since 1983. Wales rose to eighth in the World Rankings after they overcame their underdog tag against Ireland. My heart tells me that Scotland’s performance was just a one-off and Wales will edge this week’s Murrayfield encounter. However, my brain thinks otherwise.
Scotland played well last week and they have been on an upward curve since Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell’s influence began to grow. Wales was close to the wooden spoon last season and the red card did them a lot of favours against Ireland. Wales have not been at the top of their game since beating France at the Rugby World Cup in 2019. Alun-Wyn Jones is a legend but maybe his time, like many of his compatriots, is coming to an end? If one recalls, France was dominant in that game until they too received a red card.
Warren Gatland has moved on and the Welsh are looking to adapt their game. Scotland needs to take advantage of this. Despite my loyalties to the Dragons, I am going to say that the thistles should squeak this. I would not be surprised if the game could sway either way going into the 80th minute.
Thus, the margin will be small in the hosts’ favour.
Prediction: Scotland by 3.
George North scored this wonderful try against Scotland five years ago 🔥
— BBC Sport Wales (@BBCSportWales) February 10, 2021
Round 2 – Ireland vs France
The final game of the weekend and arguably the best of the lot.
Generally, this has been a clash where the home side takes the spoils. Ireland bucked this trend in 2018 when they beat France by 15 points to 13 on their way to an historic grand slam. France will need to repeat that feat if they are going to have their name engraved into the trophy at the end of this tournament. Les Bleus will be confident after their Italian Job last weekend. In contrast, Ireland suffered a narrow defeat to Wales.
Ireland only have themselves to blame. Ill-discipline is intolerable in international rugby whilst failing to execute the basics will always cost dearly. The Shamrocks missed touch after receiving a penalty in overtime. Alternatively, France were clinical at the Stadio Olimpico. Italy had spells of good possession in the first half but France played percentage rugby. They waited for the Italians to make an error and then pounced emphatically.
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) February 6, 2021
Antoine Dupont against Conor Murray will be the key on-field battle on Sunday. The British and Irish Lions’ scrum half is so important to the Shamrocks game with his calming presence and accurate kicking. Dupont is quite simply lethal, he is quick and decisive whilst possessing supreme self-confidence to back his line-breaking abilities in tight situations. The winner of that battle may decide the final result.
I am going against recent history and giving the win to the French. They came close to glory in 2020 and with England losing their first game of the tournament. The French have a massive opportunity to put themselves in control of their own destiny ahead of next week’s break.
Prediction: France by 7.
🗣️ "We’re hugely excited about what this group can bring – we showed it a little bit last week and have to show it this week.”
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 11, 2021
We hope you enjoyed this article ‘Six Nations Preview – Round Two’. Who do you think will win this weekend’s matches? Let us know!
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